Republican George Santos expelled from Congress in bipartisan vote

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The New York Republican, fabulist and accused fraudster George Santos has been expelled from Congress.

Related: George Santos: a creature of Congress, dark money and limitless Republican hypocrisy | Sidney Blumenthal

The vote to expel Santos, the second since his election last year, required a two-thirds majority of those present. The final tally on Friday was 311-114, with two members recorded present and eight absent.

Santos therefore becomes only the sixth member ever expelled from the US House. The first three fought for the Confederacy in the civil war. The other two were expelled after being convicted of crimes.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal fraud charges but has not been tried. A previous expulsion attempt, mounted by members of his own party, failed in part because senior Democrats voted no, citing the dangers of expelling members without convictions secured.

But a damning report from the House ethics committee, detailing how Santos used campaign funds for purchases including travel, cosmetic treatment and luxury goods, changed the political equation.

Democrats and Republicans introduced motions to force the expulsion vote this week. Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker, sought to persuade Santos to resign – an overture Santos rejected. In the event, Johnson and other senior Republicans voted not to expel. But nor did Johnson attempt to whip his party into line.

A majority of Republicans, 112 of 222, voted not to expel. Five did not vote, 105 supporting the motion. Among the New York delegation, 22 members voted for expulsion. Three New York Republicans voted no: Santos himself, Claudia Tenney and Elise Stefanik, the House Republican conference chair.

Robert Reich, a Berkeley professor, former US labor secretary and Guardian columnist, said: “George Santos may be gone from Congress, but a majority of Republicans voted against expelling him – including the entire House GOP leadership. The Republican party once again showed that it doesn’t really care about ethics or the law, only power.”

Johnson took the gavel to announce the final vote tally. Santos, who stood through the vote with his coat round his shoulders, soon left the chamber.

Sharon Eliza Nichols, communications director for Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democratic delegate for the District of Columbia, alluded to Cinderella when she said: “And just like that, without even a goodbye twirl, George Santos hopped in her carriage and departed.”

But he has shown no sign of going quietly. On Thursday, railing against the looming vote, Santos attacked other members, introducing his own expulsion resolution against Jamaal Bowman (a New York Democrat who admitted pulling a fire alarm in a congressional office building, a misdemeanour) and calling Max Miller, a Republican from Ohio, an “accused … woman beater” in a clash on the House floor.

Santos’s district must now hold a special election within 90 days. On Friday, the Democratic governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, said she was “prepared to undertake the solemn responsibility of filling the vacancy in New York’s third district. The people of Long Island deserve nothing less.”

Santos won the seat as part of a New York Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections last year, a key part of Democrats’ loss of control of the House.

But as Santos’s résumé quickly unraveled under press scrutiny, alleged criminal behaviour, in Brazil and the US, was also brought to light.

Amid a flood of increasingly bizarre stories, including about Santos’s past as a drag performer in Brazil and a claim to have been a volleyball star at a college he did not attend, Santos admitted embellishing his record but denied wrongdoing.

Achieving notoriety, he made common cause with Republican extremists such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a prominent Trump ally.

Kevin McCarthy, the speaker from January until October, resisted taking action other than withdrawing committee assignments, in large part because the GOP controls the House by a slim margin and Santos backed McCarthy through 15 votes for speaker. In October, when the far right made McCarthy the first speaker ever ejected by his own party, Santos did not support the change.

Democrats now hope to retake Santos’s seat, to reduce the Republican majority.

In a statement on Friday, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or Crew, said: “George Santos’s pattern of unethical and illegal conduct is shocking and continues to escalate. Expulsion from Congress was appropriate and overdue.

“He should have resigned and saved Congress all this trouble. Now he’ll be remembered as only the third member of Congress since the civil war to be expelled.”

Adav Noti, legal director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said the expulsion of Santos showed that “no one is above the law”, and “the power and potential of ethics enforcement”.

“While it should not take violations as egregious as those committed by Santos for this system to work effectively … all Americans have the right to financial honesty from members of Congress, and to effective enforcement against any elected official who deprives the voters of that right.”

So rapid was Santos’s rise to infamy, he attracted a biographer who worked fast to produce a book released this week, just three days before Santos was kicked out of Congress.

On Friday, the author, Mark Chiusano, posted: “Definitely didn’t think I’d be writing a political obit[uary] for Santos … one year after he was elected, but here we are.”